Friday, March 11, 2011

Thursday Meant Relaxing and Recharging

I adore this little fuzz ball. Don’t tell Nicco (Binky) but Masi has me wrapped around his fuzzy little cat toe. ;-) I can’t think of anything much cuter than a cat sticking his tongue out because I woke him up from his nap with the clicking of my camera. LOL

I was moving so very slowly this morning. After two days of inadequate sleep I am not good for anything. I can’t burn the candle at both ends like I did when I was younger that is for certain. Obviously since we got home from DC after midnight we didn’t even try to get up at 5am to head to the gym.

It was somewhat cool again so I prepared Dan a big bowl of oatmeal for breakfast which I made with water and then added: cinnamon, powdered ginger, stevia (for Mr. Sweet Tooth), wheat germ, freshly ground flaxseed, wild blueberries and walnuts.

After I finished my first mug of double matcha I made myself a giant salad for breakfast. This one contained: previously cooked quinoa and black beans, artichokes, salsa, mesclun, red bell pepper and white chia seeds. I have been trying to use up the white chia seeds since they have been in my refrigerator for a while. They make a decent crunchy salad topping and provide omega 3 fatty acids as well. I also like to put hulled hemp seeds or ground flaxseeds on my salads to provide omega 3’s. If you haven’t tried hemp seeds those are my personal favorite. They have a flavor and texture that reminds me of pine nuts which appeals to my Italian side.

Lunch was a bowl of the soup that I made Wednesday night. I finished the soup with smoked paprika for an extra pop of flavor. This soup would not be the same without the lemon and paprika. I think those two items make a huge difference in the final product.

Speaking of adding flavor another item that I use all the time now is no-salt seasoning. I buy mine at Costco but suspect most brands are similar. The one I use is organic and contains the following: onion, garlic, carrot, black pepper, bell pepper, tomato, orange peel, parsley, bay leaves, thyme, basil, celery, lemon peel, oregano, savory, mustard seed, cumin, marjoram, coriander, cayenne, citric acid and rosemary. I now reach for this the same way I would have grabbed sea salt or kosher salt in the past. It adds a lot of flavor to food. You can use it in your cooking (which I do), or sprinkle it on top of cooked food (which we also do).

Giving up salt was tough for us initially. In the past I had many different varieties of salt in the house at all times. I loved black salt, red salt, smoked salt, lemon salt, chardonnay salt, etc. …. you get the idea. The idea of giving up salt was not the least bit appealing to me and took a long time to happen. Once I actually understood the problems of too much sodium the added salt had to go. *sgh* Finding a good no-salt seasoning will help you to reduce and hopefully eliminate added salt in your food too.

In addition to no salt seasoning there are other things you can use to help yourself not miss the salt. Finishing dishes with acid (fresh lemon or lime juice, balsamic vinegar, etc.) brightens the flavor of food in the same way that salt does. If you haven’t tried that please do it makes a big difference in flavor.

There is also a product called Dulse Granules that is very salty tasting but is low in sodium. I have suggested this to a few friends with “salt addictions” and they all thought it was a good option. It helped me to transition to a low sodium diet.

Why should we all be consuming less sodium that was the question that I wanted answered before I had any intention of cutting back on my sodium. Telling me that sodium increased blood pressure didn’t make any difference since my blood pressure is naturally low (88/48 the last time I checked it at home right after I got up). Clearly I don’t have to worry about lowering my blood pressure. Why is too much sodium a bad thing for someone like me?

Sodium is an electrolyte like potassium, chloride and magnesium. These mineral salts conduct electricity when dissolved in water. If you get too much sodium it disrupts the balance of the electrolytes in your blood. I have read that we should all be consuming a diet with a potassium to sodium ratio of approximately 4:1. However most American’s consume a diet that has potassium to sodium ratio of 1:2 which has been linked to both high blood pressure and cancer. Cancer … now they have my attention!

What I wanted to know is how they determined the 4:1 ratio which I could never figure out. Instead I looked at the potassium to sodium ratio of a few whole plant based foods to see what was found in nature. I used only whole foods and the list below is the first seven vegetable of various quantities (because that was quickest and I was focusing on the ratio not the absolute amounts) I randomly selected (the numbers are given as potassium:sodium in milligrams):

Almonds:  211:0
Apple:  244:0
Broccoli:  101:1
Celery:  356:104
Grapes:  285:4
Peas, Green:  354:7
Pepper, Bell:  163:3

Clearly in nature the overall potassium to sodium ratio averages much higher than 4:1. But what about sea vegetables which are known to be salty foods what does the potassium to sodium look like:

agar:  33:1
kelp:  9:23
laver:  36:5

If you used them sea vegetables like the Japanese as a flavoring agent for dishes they aren’t going to take the ratio of the overall dish below 4:1. Also if you choose your seaweed carefully you can select ones that have a better ratio which I didn’t realize was possible until I did a little research.

I don’t know about you but it appears to me that natural foods and dishes made with them are going to have ratios of potassium to sodium that are much higher than 4:1. How can the average American be eating a diet with a potassium to sodium ratio closer to 1:2? Sadly it is because they eat a lot of processed food and that is pumped full of sodium and very low in potassium. I hope this gives you something to think about.

Between lunch and dinner I spent many hours on Tuesday pouring through photographs and trying to decide which ones to post yesterday. No OCD here! ;-)

I lost so much time playing with photos from yesterday that I didn’t plan dinner. Oops! Since I lost track of time I needed to make a meal in a hurry. When this happens I usually turn to quinoa since that is a quick cooking grain. I made a simple dish of Sicilian artichokes to place over the quinoa. I made a tomato base with diced tomatoes, dried tomatoes, onions and garlic and to that I added golden raisins, hot crushed peppers (wet hots), fennel seeds, and Italian seasoning. Finally I added artichoke quarters and finished the dish with sliced almonds and fresh minced parsley. If you are fond of the Sicilian concept of agro dolce you will like this combination.

Happy Thoughts:

Sometimes you need a day to be lazy and that was my Thursday. Here are my happy thoughts now:

• Thankfully the felines have forgiven us for leaving them alone most of Wednesday. They were a little bent out of shape to have us gone but have now returned to their usual loving little selves.

• I was very happy with a few of my pictures from Wednesday in DC. These would not have been possible if it weren’t for the camera Dan bought me for Christmas in 2009. I am thankful for my very generous husband and my cousin Mary Ellen who taught me to love photography more than 30 years ago.

• Having a refrigerator and pantry full of food was wonderful yesterday. I was so busy that I had very little time to cook or shop. Yesterday was one of those days that I was very grateful for intentional leftovers.

• A few packages arrived in the mail on Thursday and Friday. It was a little like Christmas in March. I will give you more details on these very soon.

• I have been spending a lot of time lately reading/watching and learning more about nutrition and health. I love that I have finally discovered my passion in life. It is good to know what moves you. Now I just need to figure out what I am going to do with this knowledge. I am thankful to have to time to figure that out.

• Friday I had the chance to meet a new friend. I love having people in my life you are as interested in health as I am. Healthy friends help to keep me focused and pushing forward to learn and do more for our health.

• I was approached by a book publisher about writing vegan cookbook reviews which was very nice. However before I commit I wanted to get your opinion. How do you feel about my writing cookbook reviews on books I receive from a publisher? It is my intention to have giveaways with many of the books. Please let me know what you think.

• It’s Friday and you know what that means …. time to celebrate. I love knowing that I get to spend two days with my sweetie. *happy dance*

• We are slowly but surely getting back to our 5am wake up time so that we can get back to early morning exercising. As much as I dislike mornings I am looking forward to that.

Signing out:

I love Friday, it is definitely my favorite day of the week. As much as I love Friday it is also a hectic day for me. I have a few things to do before I can start enjoying the weekend with Dan. Talk to you tomorrow.


  1. Hi Ali.

    I have to say "yes, yes, yes!" to you regarding your opportunity to review books! I've always enjoyed reading your reviews. The time and attention you spend talking about the material is obvious.

    Yes, you are very lucky to have a guy that is so willing to eat the way you're eating. He trusts your judgment and appreciates all the good things you prepare.

    Have a great weekend!


  2. Colleen,

    Thanks for weighing in on the book review option. I greatly appreciate hearing your opinion on that issue.

    I am very lucky to have Dan in more ways than one. Something tells me most men wouldn't go along with some of my ideas (like healthy veganism for one). ;-)

    enjoy your weekend too,

  3. I've been following your blog for a while and I have to say that it's very interesting and informative. I read more than once that you have an Italian heritage and I was wondering from where. I'm Italian and I moved to States a year ago. In August I read Eat to Live and since then I love to try new healthy recipes and to learn more and more about nutrition. Your website is one of my favorite.


  4. Simona,

    Thank you very much for such a nice compliment. *blushes* I am happy to hear that you are enjoying the blog.

    If you are looking for other books to read on health let me know I can recommend many more. Nutrition is one of my favorite topics.

    The Italian side of my family was mostly from the Amalfi Coast. I love Italy how did you pull yourself away? When we go there on vacation it is tough to come back to the states. What part of Italy are you from?

    enjoy your weekend,

  5. I saw that you read tons of books! I'm right now going through all Fuhrman books.

    Amalfi coast is beautiful, I lived in Naples and I spent amazing weekends between Sorrento, Amalfi and Positano :)
    Anyway I was born in Rome and my family is from Calabria.

    I came here for my job, I fell in love and I decided to stay.
    I'm lucky, as you are, to have a husband that share my new way of eating.

    While I'm writing to you I'm cooking your mushroom creamy soup....talking about that I better go before it's too late :)

    enjoy your weekend as well


  6. Simona,

    I must be tired I just replied to you and accidently deleted it. Time for me to get some rest.

    When you need additional books to read let me know. I am happy to suggest others if you let me know what your health focus is.

    Also, feel free to email me ( if you have any questions you don't want to post in the comment section.

    hope you both enjoy the soup,

  7. I love writing book reviews, for cookbooks and other informative books. I've noticed a lot of people do kind of a superficial review of the books, which is OK, but I know you are the type of person who would really take the time to give a thorough review. And everyone has their own dietary take on it which is important. So I'd vote yes, if you have the time and desire, it would be appreciated.

    Love your kitty pic.

  8. You're such a prolific reader and writer that it makes sense to do book reviews. And how can we say no to book giveaways? What is the downside, perhaps having to read books that you're not so interested in?

    Thanks for the info on salt, it was very interesting. I recently noticed that canned refried beans can have quite a bit. And I still can't find organic diced tomatoes without salt.

  9. Bitt,

    I love reading and writing book reviews myself. However I have noticed that some people appear to be writing the reviews only to get "free stuff" which doesn't make their review very credible in my opinion. That is why I have resisted doing this for long. I guess I am the only one that was concerned about that. No over thinking things here, LOL.

    Thanks for the kitty compliment. I think they are so cute when they stick their little tongues out.

    enjoy your weekend,

  10. Laura,

    I was only concerned about the potential for the appearance of bias in the review because the books were free. Sometimes it is hard to shake my corporate mindset.

    Many canned foods have a lot of sodium. The next time I go to the grocery store I will look for all brands of no and low sodium tomatoes and will post that list. Check out Eden Foods canned tomatoes if your store has them, they have no salt added tomatoes. In the summer when tomatoes are plentiful I have started canning my own, but that is a big undertaking.

    Enjoy your weekend,

  11. I think you would be great at reviewing cookbooks in terms of practicalities, design, level of information etc. The only drawback I could see would be if you were expected to try out some of the recipes as part of the review and it wasn't a particularly health based cookbook ;) Although I'm sure you could find something healthy enough to review in almost any book. I'm sure you've considered this though.

    Enjoy your weekend.

  12. Carol,

    I had thought of the "unhealthy" aspect but typically even books that aren't health focused have some recipes that would be fine. The vast majority of my books are unhealthy so it is second nature for me to look beyond unhealthy ingredients. However I greatly appreciate you checking to make certain that I had thought of that potential issue. :-)

    Enjoy your weekend,

  13. Hi, I have been following your blog for quite awhile and enjoy reading it. In response to your question on whether to review cookbooks I would say why not. If you feel you can add value or your voice to doing something you love, then there is no downside considering you don't compromise your values or feel pressure to say something positive.

    I also blog and I am not vegan. I write about food, the pets, nature, and life in general. I do have some vegan recipes on the site. I am at

  14. Louise,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on my reviewing books. As you may have guessed I was on the fence about it but it seems like everyone else likes the idea. Why not right? ;-)

    I also appreciate knowing that you enjoy the blog, thanks for letting me know. I will stop by your blog later today.

    have a great weekend,

  15. I love artichokes so SO much and every time I see you use them on a salad they sound delicious. I keep meaning to ask you--do you use canned artichoke hearts or frozen or...?


  16. Courtney,

    I am an artichoke fiend too and can eat them 7 days a week. I buy both fresh, frozen and canned but prefer the frozen ones when I want something quick. However there is nothing like fresh artichokes. Yum!

    talk to you later,

  17. Hi Ali,
    Congrats on being approached for the book reviews. With your scientific approach to nutrition, I think you'd be able to provide very comprehensive reviews of vegan cooking. As you've said before, you can be healthy or unhealthy vegan so it would be nice to see a review from your persepctive. Plus, I may be partially biased by the giveaways!

  18. Jill,

    Thanks I haven't decided completely on the book reviews yet. I realize that almost no book will be "healthy enough" for me, but since I always have to adjust recipes to replace unhealthy ingredients I would need to consider them from that perspective. Does that make any sense?

    talk to you later, ;-)

  19. I say YES to you reviewing cookbooks! You are a natural!


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